Our congratulations to Wolfgang, Soho, Nobu and Todd for making some of the best food in the world available here in Tokyo. It was nice having Wolfgang in town for a few days. One of the world’s best known and most successful chefs, he was here to open the Wolfgang Puck Bar and Grill in Roppongi Hills, right by that huge science fiction-looking spider sculpture. I enjoyed hanging with Wolfgang and the new love in his life, New York-based fashion designer Gelila Assefa (she’s from Ethiopia) and our mutual friends Bill and Charo Ireton. Wolfgang has completely disassociated himself from Spago in Roppongi, kindly saying, “It just did not work out:’ He came back to Japan with the opening of Wolfgang Puck’s Cafe in Universal City Osaka. This proved to be so popular, his new (and true) Japanese business partner opened another cafe in Ark Hills last year. Wolfgang’s new Bar and Grill was wall-to-wall people the first week and continues to be very busy. I could not even get a table for idol-maker Johnny Kitagawa and two of his superstars, the Kinky Kids, one night. I also had to pass on taking Dewi Sukarno to meet Wolfgang. Dewi’s daughter Karina, who lives in New York, is a good friend of Gelila.
At this point, I have to thank Cedric Alberge of Cartier who helps me keep· my more-than-20-year-old Cartier tank watch looking good and running perfect.
After 30-plus years of writing for Weekender, you’d think I’d be used to it by now – but I’m not. It’s never easy saying sayonara to good friends, and it seems it’s time for a big exodus again. Italian Ambassador Gabriele Menegatti and his wife Brigitte, after four years in Japan, are now posted in Beijing, where he’s Ambassador. After five years in Japan, Bulgarian Ambassador Petar Anglonov will be returning to Sofia. After four years here, Austrian Ambassador Hans Dietmar Schweisgut is heading for Beijing. He’s Austria’s new Ambassador to China. Hungarian Ambassador Istvan Szerdhelyi and his wife Reiko, here for four years, are returning to Budapest, where he’ll resume teaching at the University of Budapest. Moroccan Ambassador Mohamed Tangi and his wife Alia are off to Ottawa, Canada, for his posting as Ambassador. They were in Japan five years. After two years, eight months, Dominican Republic Ambassador Fausto Sicard Moya and his wife Adalgisa returned to Santa Domingo. He will retire from government work. It doesn’t stop with the Ambassadors and their wives. I’m also losing two good friends who are top secretaries.
I couldn’t get to Chang mai in Northern Thailand for the annual Song Kron Festival this year, but did the next best thing. It was a beautiful day when Thai Ambassador Kasit Piromya and his wife Chintana invited friends to a traditional Thai New Year’s (Song Kron) celebration at their home. The religious ceremonies, as you can see by the photos, included bathing Buddha images with lustral water. There was also a fun sandcastle-making contest. In Thailand, when sand is brought to the temples for the special event, it’s felt this replaces sand carried from the temple on one’s shoes.
Kudos plus to Konica Chairman Tomiji Uematsu, President and CEO Fumio lwai and their staff on “A Slice of Life:’ an exhibition at Konica Plaza Gallery, Shinjuku, featuring the colorful and exciting photos of U.S. Ambassador Howard H. Baker Jr. and Russian Ambassador Alexandre Panov. It was a power-packed evening in every way. VIP guests, in the prettzmuch all-VIP crowd, included Princess Takamado, Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and former Prime Ministers Yasuhiro Nakasone and Ryutaro Hashimoto. I enjoyed meeting recently arrived Turkish Ambassador Solmaz Unaydin. She’s a dynamic lady who I’m sure will have a very busy and successful tour of duty here. I was telling Solmaz about another lady envoy, Luxembourg Ambassador Michelle Pranchere Tomassini, when Midielle walked in.
Our Malaysian friends have been super busy as well. On May 12, they hosted a Malaysia Sales Mission 2003. This gave Japanese in the travel and tourism business the opportunity to meet visiting Malaysian hotel and resort owners and tour agents and get an update of what’s happening in “Malaysia-Truly Asia:’ A few weeks later Malaysia’s Prime Minister Mahathir bin Mohamad was in Japan at a Nikkei conference. That dynamic leader is always very much in demand. On June 6, on the occasion of Malaysia Month in conjunction with ASEA.N Japan Exchange Year 2003, Malaysian Ambassador Dato M.N. Marzuki and his wife Datin Nora hosted a big “Malaysia Meets Japan” concert and reception. I could not get to the special event held at the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Theater in Ikebukuro. Sorry, as Mitsuo Maruyama said it was “fantastic
Philippines Ambassador Domingo L. Siazon Jr. and his wife Kazuko (Kay) hosted a reception at the opening reception for the “Sakura” impressions of nature painting exhibition of renowned Filipino artist Manuel D. Baldemor. Former President Fidel V. Ramos officiated at the opening.
It was a very special evening in every way when the Grand Hyatt Tokyo Hotel hosted a VIP-packed opening reception in its big and beautiful Grand Ballroom. Guests included Japanese government officials, diplomats, business leaders, top execs from the film world, fashion designers, top society and familiar faces from the arts and entertainment worlds. The buffet featured a huge variety of food from all over the world, and it was superb. Entertainment was music by the Akio Shimizu Swing All-Stars Big Band. I was one of many who had to leave early for the Virgin Cinema, Wolfgang Puck and Soho Tsukikawa restaurants’ opening parties, so missed the Hyatt show. Friends who stayed said it was very entertaining. Kudos to Mori Hospitality President and CEO Kanji Ohashi, Grand Hyatt Hotel General Manager Xavier Destribats and the hotel’s hard-working and devoted executives and staff for making it a truly memorable evening for everyone who had the privilege of being there.
I flew in from Hanoi the afternoon of Saturday, May 24, dropped off my luggage, had a quick change of clothes and rushed over to the Park Hyatt Hotel to say hello to the many celebrities brought in by Warner Bros. for their mega-promotion of the phenomenal hit, “Matrix Reloaded?’ From there, I rushed over to Roppongi for the 23rd anniversary party of that funky but fun little club, the Lexington Queen (Lex). It was wall-to-wall people with a half-block-long line of people hoping to get in.
Frankly, it was a bit too much, and I feel I did the right thing in calling Creative Man and telling them it was not a good idea to bring in their artist, Eminem, and the same to Warner Bros. and actor Keanu Reeves. We would have had a riot. Bands that dropped by the club just before, during and shortly after the anniversary party included Natural, Sum 41, Blur, American Hi-Fi and one of England’s hottest acts, Craig David. He went up to the D.J. box, did some mixing and even rapped a bit. In addition to that, John Knoxville and the cast of “Jackass” spent considerable time at the club, and a group of Disney dancers came in to do their thing-dancing. They’re really hot.
After seeing Sandra Bullock in “Two Weeks Notice:’ I’ve become more and more interested in the preservation of landmark buildings. Along that line, it’ll be interesting to see what they’ll do with all that land along Omote Sando, where they’re tearing down the old apartment complex that had a lot of history and housed a lot of arty little shops. Hope it won’t be another of what Tokyo doesn’t need – a huge modern shopping mall. I have to admit the big glass block Prada boutique on Omote Sando is very impressive, but it does bother me to drive a few minutes from there to Yoyogi Park, where there are so many homeless people living in cardboard boxes.
I was not happy when the powers-that-be made all those people, who were obviously in need, stop their street market near Yoyogi Park. They set up early, did not block the sidewalk, arranged all the things they were selling artistically and cleaned up the area at the end of the day. It was fun and added a little color to a city that can use a bit more color … and a little more kindness to the less fortunate.
*First published at the Tokyo Weekender